With nearly 50 years of policing under his belt, you can bet Ed Sorger has seen a lot of changes.
He was at the Lacey Police Department when the city only had one stoplight, at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Sleater Kinney Road.
He was there when cadets ran the department’s front office every weekend, from midnight Friday to midnight Sunday. He and the other teenagers were responsible for answering phones and dispatching cars for a full 48 hours.
He was around at the advent of less lethal forms of force, including pepper spray and stun guns.
“I think police officers these days are a lot more educated. I think they’re a little different than we were all those years ago,” Sorger said. “We were, you know, the coffee and doughnuts kind of police officers. Now it’s more espresso and yogurt. I’m not knocking it, it’s good.
“Have I seen changes in 50 years? You bet I have,” he added.
But those who have worked with Sorger agree that one thing hasn’t changed: his commitment to helping the community he serves.
“I’ve learned a lot from Ed,” said Lacey Sgt. Dave Campbell. “The thing that really stuck with me was how he expected us to treat people. He always said to treat people how you would want to be treated. Imagine that’s your mother or father you’re dealing with, or your sister or brother.”
Campbell and Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint said the community will lose a good officer Sept. 15, when Sorger retires, leaving from his post as chief of The Evergreen State College Police Services.
Sorger served as chief of the department for 10 years, following 35 years at the Lacey Police Department. His work before his Lacey hire — as an Ocean Shores police officer, a Thurston County corrections officer, a 911 dispatcher, a Lacey reserve officer and a Lacey cadet — brings his total law enforcement experience to nearly 50 years.
“I’m kind of sad in a way to see it end, but I turned 68 (on Aug. 30),” Sorger said. “So I’m thinking, ‘Golly, there’s another world out there. It’s called taking it easy for awhile.’ So I’ll probably do that.”
Among Sorger’s contributions to Thurston County is the Crime Stopper program, which kicked off about 26 years ago. The agency is run by a civilian board of directors, and representatives from law enforcement offices provide information about the Crime of the Week, which is then distributed to media outlets.
Sorger teamed up with Thurston County resident John McCarthy, and the duo secured state funding to start the program.
Sorger is still active in the program and said it’s rewarding for multiple reasons: It’s a good way to connect with the community, and it really works.
“One tip that we can get from that program can save so many investigator hours, just pointing us in the right direction,” Sorger said. “It’s paid off numerous times.”
Pierpoint, who calls Sorger his mentor, said Sorger’s contributions have made Crime Stoppers a long-lasting organization.
“I think he’s built the foundation for it to continue,” Pierpoint said. “He was there at the beginning as a driving force when a lot of those programs fizzle out.”
Sorger said much of his career in Lacey was focused on community policing, which was good practice for when he moved to Evergreen.
He said a good campus police officer must really get to know the community, contribute to it and become a part of it. He encourages officers to leave behind patrol cars and travel campus on foot.
Under his watch, Evergreen’s Police Services started a food pantry, a shelf at the front of the office stocked with Top Ramen, granola bars and other goods to keep students from going hungry.
For a few years, he ran a peanut-butter-and-jam bar out of the Police Department. The department provided donated fixings, and students were welcome to come in and make sandwiches. But after a while, the time and money the project took made it impractical — so they switched to the pantry.
Every once in a while, the Evergreen Police Department does deal with a more serious event, Sorger said. For example, officers encountered a man tearing down posters around campus — and the man became irate when officers confronted him.
“There was quite a fight in Red Square, and my officer ended up getting four staples in his head,” Sorger said. “We had to call the Thurston County sheriff for backup.”
A deputy was able to subdue and arrest the man, who was charged with multiple counts of assault.
Sorger said he’s sure his successor as chief, Stacy Brown, a former chief deputy at the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, will have no problem handling these more serious crimes as well as community policing. He said Brown will take the Evergreen department “to the next level.”
But he did have some parting wisdom for Brown, and for younger officers:
“Obviously it’s all about learning your community,” Sorger said. “Take your time, learn your community, go around and meet everybody, have a constant presence.
“And for new cops coming into the business, just treat people how you like to be treated. It’s basic stuff.”